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Last update 27/03/2018 (Whitehorse, YT)

 

Food and Water

​One of the challenges in planning our GPT hike was access to information. While this was true of many aspects of the hike (trail condition, public transport options, landowner permissions, etc.), perhaps our biggest unknown related to food. What was available in Chile, where could we get it, and what should we bring from Santiago (or even, from home)? Luckily, keeping ourselves fed on the trail (while simultaneously keeping pack weights low) ended up being pleasantly straightforward.

Before and after: repacking trail food in Talca for a ten-day first leg.

 

Our trail food ethos

Food math.

We chose to pay a great deal of attention to weight, such that all of our needs were met with the minimum pack weight possible. Our plans involved stringing together trail sections such that we could hike for 8 - 10 days between resupplies. With that interval, food is easily the largest component of pack weight for most of each leg. Keeping careful track of daily nutritional needs and maximizing caloric density means light, fast and enjoyable hiking. While this meant lots of planning (and crunching caloric math) at each resupply, it also meant we were freer, faster, better-fed and less sore every day on the trail. While we never quite reached our goal of arriving for resupply with no more food in our packs, we usually came close. We generally considered our leftovers a weather-day buffer, and so figured we were right on the mark most of the time.

You want this one.

 

Trail menu

Our daily menu usually looked something like this:

  • Breakfast

    • Granola with milk powder and Milo powder

    • Multivitamin (every other day)

  • Snack (x2)

    • Nuts, DIY trail mix or granola bars

  • Lunch

    • Nuts

    • Dry cured sausage

    • Dried fruit

    • Cookies

  • Snack (x2)

    • Nuts, trail mix, granola bars or chocolate

  • Supper

    • Pasta

    • Powdered sauce reconstituted with milk powder, olive oil and parmesan

  • Dessert

    • Chocolate (and whatever of the day’s snacks we hadn’t yet eaten)

Piñone pesto pasta for supper.

 

To begin, we budgeted

- 2,500 kcal/day for Piia, and

- 2,700 kcal/day for Oliver.

 

After 2 weeks on the trail, we bumped ourselves up a bit, to

- 2,700 kcal/day for Piia and

- 3,000 kcal/day for Oliver.

 

Our food weight was generally 600 - 800g/person/day.

Click the image on the right to see (and download) a detailed food plan (PDF) including calorie and weight calculations.

As you can see, our food plan resulted in some rather predictable weight loss.

Also, resupply stops became excuses for some pretty serious calorie loading. After a couple of weeks on the trail, we somehow lost the ability to be full.

 

Food availability

Our resupply plans generally involved traveling some distance from the trail to reach larger population centres, where a good selection of food and other supplies were readily available (see Resupply section). Efficient public transport meant traveling the extra distance from the trail wasn’t usually too onerous.

While there are several larger supermarket chains to choose from, the first one we happened to go to was Jumbo, and we more or less stuck with it.
 

Resupplying in a familiar chain meant we knew ahead of time what products were available, and even roughly where they were (as layout was similar among stores). Also, there’s often overnight laundry service at Jumbo (and, we suspect, other large supermarkets).

As of writing, the Jumbo website has a pretty thorough online product catalogue, meaning you can research menu options before leaving home.

What to expect in city supermarkets

 

  • Pasta

    • Many varieties of quick-cooking pasta (e.g. angel hair) readily available

      • We particularly liked dried, shelf-stable tortellini and ravioli – high caloric density and very tasty

  • Instant noodles

    • Ubiquitous (if uninspired flavor selection; we generally chucked the salt packets anyway)

  • Powdered soup and pasta sauce

    • Various flavours (pesto, cheese, alfredo, corn chowder) readily available

      • This stuff was great – light, fairly high-calorie, tasty and easy to add more calories to (e.g. olive oil, parmesan, milk powder); perfect base for pasta/noodle suppers

  • Trail mix and seeds

  • Dried fruit

    • Apricots, raisins, mango, figs, pineapple all readily available

      • Low caloric density, but we brought some anyway for nutrients/fibre

      • Usually in 200 – 400 g packages

  • Granola bars

    • Domestic (Quaker, Costa brands) ubiquitous but only so-so in terms of flavor and caloric density

    • Imported (e.g. Nature Valley) rarely available; expensive

Piia has had about as much Jumbo as she can stand.

  • Granola

    • Various flavours, usually a reasonable selection

    • Varieties with lots of nuts (or chocolate) generally have highest caloric density

  • Cookies

    • Ubiquitous – many varieties

  • Calculator

    • Our first stop at each supermarket was the stationery aisle; we’d grab a calculator to make sure our calorie math added up while we shopped, and then put it back on the shelf before hitting the checkout.

What’s not available

  • Hard cheese

    • Seems that hard cheeses such as Cheddar and Swiss aren’t really a Chilean thing; most are soft and/or unripened (poor choices for warm-weather hiking)

  • Jerky

    • Rarely available, often made of horse, tastes like dog food

  • Dehydrated meals (e.g. Mountain House or equivalent)

    • We never saw these

What to expect trailside

You can resupply at stores and mini-shops along the trail, though selection can be pretty grim. We tended to use them as treat stations (Helados? Don’t mind if I do!), rather than grocery stores.

In small towns, expect to reliably find pasta, some nuts and trail mix, raisins, cookies, chocolate, chips, milk powder and Milo, olive oil, canned goods, dairy, drink crystals, and alcohol. Fresh fruits and vegetables in season, some soft cheeses, and potentially a bit of meat.

In smaller population centres (think 5 – 20 houses) you might find someone selling supplies from a room off their house – expect eggs, bread, pasta, cookies, chocolate, chips, beer and wine, candy, pop, canned goods, vegetable oil, harina tostada and, if there’s electricity, ice cream.

Occasionally, you’ll pass small stands and shops selling various homemade edible things (mostly eggs, vegetables, bread and other baked goods). We were suckers for queques and sopaipillas, in particular.

Homemade mini-mercado signs mean chips and popsicles are in your future.

 

Wild food on the trail

We’re both big fans of foraging, and finding food along the trail also has the benefit of being uncarried calories. We encountered a few notable food sources along our route.

  • Plums

    • Plum trees were common at low elevations along the northern third of our route (roughly Siete Tazas – Trapa Trapa)

    • Tiny and delicious, we ate about as many of these as we could while down in the low country

    • Plum colour, size and flavor varied a lot tree to tree – we became real connoisseurs

    • Plum season seemed to span December

  • Piñones

    • The central third of our route (roughly Trapa Trapa – Reigolil) was, for us, defined by the presence of Auracaria trees, that produce huge, delicious piñones (pine nuts)

    • While piñones are ready in fall, we could generally find plenty of last years’ nuts under trees

      • This was only true in drier areas – in wet forests the old nuts were rotten

    • While they took a long time to cook (30 min simmer in their skins), they were a nice treat – tasted like a combination of chestnut, pine nut and sweet corn

Tiny, beautiful plums.

Auracaria piñones - the most awesome pine nuts.

  • Blackberries

    • Aggressively sharp blackberry canes were everywhere (particularly south of Laguna Icalma), but we only caught the very beginning of the blackberry season at the end of our hike in mid-February

      • A Chilean public information campaign against Hantavirus notes that blackberries, in particular, can be exposed to Hanta, and should be washed thoroughly before eating

  • Maqui

    • These mid-sized shrubs with small, purple berries were a common roadside plant along the southern half of our hike

    • We weren’t immediately fond of them – they don’t have a ton of flavor, and leave a pulpy seed residue in your mouth

      • We later discovered that they’re much better – sweet and tasty – when slightly overripe and a bit wrinkly

    • Maqui berries are famous throughout Chile as a miraculous superfood, able to revitalize, rejuvenate and fight off all kinds of maladies

    • We liked them as much for their curative properties as for their propensity to turn our mouths and hands a ghastly, semi-permanent purple

      • We learned from little kids that the way to eat these is to pick a whole branch tip, then browse the berries off with your mouth (thereby avoiding purple fingers, but not purple faces)

Maqui ready for munching.

  • Nalca

    • A friendly old man below Lago Hualalafquen showed us how to eat Nalca stems

      • Pick a small (finger-diameter) stem, peel away the tougher outer skin, and eat the raw inner core (which tastes like citrusy celery)

    • Nalca were present near water along most of the trail, and very common in the wetter southern portion

The inevitable result.

This one's much too big to eat (but still fun to play with).

​Water

 

While the GPT traveled through many arid sections, particularly in the north, we seldom found ourselves far from water sources. Small creeks and trickling springs are common throughout the mountainous sections of trail, and even more options exist at lower elevations. Many are marked on Jan's trail files, and on a dry summer of 2016-2017 we always found water where waypoints said so. We used these to estimate how much water we'd need to carry before reaching the next source.

Over the course of our hike, we found only two notable sections without water - one of about 10 km across an upland plateau south of Trapa Trapa, and another about 20 km across on the Volcan Puyehue traverse. Otherwise, water sources were generally less than 5 km apart.

Even the driest spots tended to have reasonable water supplies.

We used a mechanical water filter almost exclusively (see Gear Reviews – Sawyer Squeeze), with Aquatabs as backup. We used drink crystals to help incentivize maximum water consumption. Tiny (8 g) packets of artificially-sweetened drink crystals are popular in Chile, and made for a light and easy way to spruce up water. We each developed our own favourites (Oliver’s was frutos verdes, Piia’s was piña).

Sawyer-squeezing.